Abuse of episcopal authority in apostolic visitation created deep wounds

This story appears in the Apostolic Visitation feature series. View the full series.


The apostolic visitation, which sowed much division and cast a dark shadow over the lives and work of U.S. women religious for nearly six years, is finally drawing to an end. Beleaguered as we are, for this we should express gratitude.

To quote from T.S. Eliot: "Not with a bang but a whimper."

The head of the Vatican's religious congregation, Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, whose heart has never been in this investigation, an investigation he inherited, deserves praise for attempting as best he can to stop the bleeding.

More will be required if the deep wounds caused by this abuse of episcopal authority are to be attended to.

From all corners, we hear that this report – indeed, the entire six-year effort – has made a positive contribution to religious life. What we are witnessing here is a form of institutional cover-up.

We need to step back. Lacking an examination into the causes that led to this assault on women religious (yes, it has been an assault), the wounds will persist. Without substantive attitudinal and structural changes among not the women investigated but those who initiated the investigation, this grand mistake and others like it will be repeated.

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